Commencment Speech Submission: A Challenge, Not a Change

I had the honor of being one of the few graduates of the University of Utah’s class of 2017 invited to be the student commencement speaker. While I was not selected, I was thrilled at the opportunity to apply. The following is the speech I submitted for consideration.

high school graduates students

A Challenge, Not a Change
By KellieAnn Halvorsen

It’s taken me 11 years to stand before you with this 4-year degree and I am grateful for every minute it took me to get here. From a trade education to an associate, to a Bachelors, the journey has been a refining process that has given me the tools and confidence to be who I am. Notice, I said who I am, not who I am today. This is because college has not changed me, but challenged me on a deep personal level to know my own mind and self. College has challenged me to evaluate who I was and how I thought, to shed old limitations and pre-conceived notions, to find and refine my own passions, and craft a new vision of my future to doggedly pursue.

From our first courses at the University of Utah we are asked to think more, and warned we will be challenged on more fields then an educational one. I am a communications major, and as such I evaluate how we interact and communicate with the world around us, as well the thought process and rhetoric that goes along with that communication. My first class at the U was a Transfer Interest Group, in this course we learned how to transfer to and navigate the University, as well as grapple with the logical fallacies that cloud our reasoning. You are challenged to understand that “You are not so smart,” which also happens to be the name of the book we study by journalist David McRaney. We learn that there is a myriad of misconceptions and shortcuts that we employ to translate the world around us, from the ever-present and dangerous Confirmation Bias to the comfortable and enticing Consistency Bias. Being aware of these fallacies from the start. I was able to tackle my university education with a more humble and aware outlook.

This humility and awareness is key as we passed through our generals and into our specific educational sequences. We are exposed to facets of the world that we often would not have had the opportunity to do so in regular life. Along the way, something sparks our interest, ignites our mind and fuels our educational and career dreams. We find what we are passionate about and now that we found who we are, we are prepared to pursue it.

This passion can sometimes be a huge shift in our own story, for several years I thought I would build upon my own trade education in Massage Therapy to pursue a higher degree in Biology. But as I took a general communication course, I understood that communications is my passion. That I enjoyed the creative trial communications required more than the structured interpretation of the human body. Now was the time for another challenge to who I was; do I pursue my passion and change focus, losing the time and money spent on my biology courses? Or do I keep on my biology track working at something I liked, but wasn’t the happiest about? I choose my passion. My happiness. My creativity. And my newly discovered me. I know that many of us here have had similar experiences and stand here ready to graduate clutching diplomas and dreams of our new passions. And I am excited for all of us!

The University of Utah has prepared us for our futures on an educational level, mental level, and personal level. In these halls, we have been challenged to remove the roles constructed for us by our parents, family, past educators, friends and peers, and explore deeper subject of our personal interests. The education we have received has trained our minds to continually learn and face challenges. The experience of interacting with a menagerie of students, professors and topics has widened our minds and gifted us with a support system. We leave the campus and enter the “real-world” as ourselves, capable and ready to take on the challenges before us.

I am leaving to pursue my own creative communications goals; to pursue a career in public relations and arts advocacy. To continue to challenge and learn about myself as I become a force of good in this world. We all can become a force of good in this world! We know who we are. We have earned the tools, now is our time to use them.

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